Authors: Jihyun Lee and Andrew R. Weiss
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) U.S. history assessment evaluates students’ understanding of the development of America’s democratic institutions and ideals. Students demonstrated their knowledge of democracy, culture, technological and economic change, and America’s changing world role. A nationally representative sample of 29,000 students at grades 4, 8, and 12 was assessed in 2006. This report compares 2006 student performance to similar assessments conducted in 1994 and 2001.
America’s twelfth-, eighth-, and especially fourth-graders know more U.S. history now than in the past according to the 2006 NAEP assessment.
The performance of twelfth-graders, tomorrow’s adult citizens, improved over the last dozen years with increases distributed across the entire range of performance. A higher percentage of twelfth-graders performed at or above the Basic level in 2006 than in both previous assessment years. Scores increased over the past five years in all four themes measured by the assessment.
Eighth-graders’ knowledge of U.S. history has also improved since 1994. Eighth-grade scores were higher at all levels of performance. The percentage of eighth-graders at or above Proficient increased from 14 percent in 1994 to 17 percent in 2006.
What students know about U.S. history
|66% understood the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty|
|35% explained how two inventions changed life in the U.S.|
|24% explained why people settled on the western frontier|
|64% identified an impact of the cotton gin|
|43% explained goals of the Martin Luther King, Jr., march|
|1% explained how the fall of the Berlin Wall affected foreign policy|
|67% identified important Great Society idea|
|36% identified immigration pattern and explained its causes|
|14% explained a reason for involvement in the Korean War|
Improvements in fourth-grade performance, with higher average scores in 2006 than in 1994, were evident for a number of student groups. The greatest improvement was found for the lowest-performing fourth-graders who gained 19 points. Seventy percent of fourth-graders performed at or above Basic compared to 64 percent in 1994.
As shown in the chart below, White, Black, and Hispanic students at all three grades and Asian/Pacific Islander students at grade 12 showed improvements when compared to 1994. American Indian/Alaska Native students did not improve.
NCES 2007-474 Ordering information
Lee, J., and Weiss, A. (2007).The Nation’s Report Card: U.S. History 2006 (NCES 2007–474). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
For more information, see the results of the 2006 U.S. History assessment on the Nation's Report Card website.